COVID-19 in India: Panel recommends increasing gap between two doses of Covishield vaccine to 12-16 weeks

New Delhi: A government panel has recommended increasing the gap between two doses of Covishield COVID-19 vaccine to 12-16 weeks, official sources said on Thursday.

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No change has been suggested for dosage interval of Covaxin by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI).

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It has also suggested that pregnant women may be offered the choice to take any COVID-19 vaccine and that lactating women can be inoculated any time after delivery.

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The NTAGI has also stated that those having laboratory test proven SARS-CoV-2 illness should defer COVID-19 vaccination for six months after recovery, the sources said.

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According to the current protocol, vaccine must be taken four to eight weeks after recovery from COVID-19 infection.

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“Based on the available real life evidence particularly from the UK, the COVID-19 working group agreed for increasing the dosing interval to 12-16 weeks between two doses of Covishield vaccine. No change in interval of Covaxin vaccine doses was recommended,” the sources said.

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Currently, the recommended interval between two doses of Covishield is four to eight weeks.

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Shortage of vaccines

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The recommendations come amid several states reporting shortage of vaccines.

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Several states and UTs including Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana have decided to opt for global tenders for procurement of anti-coronavirus shots with the domestic supply falling short to meet the rising demand.

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The recommendations of the NTAGI, which came after a recent meeting of the panel, will be sent to the National Expert Group on Vaccine Adminstration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC).

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The panel also rejected the proposal for routinely screening all vaccine recipients with rapid antigen testing prior to COVID-19 vaccination.

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The NTAGI recommended that all pregnant women visiting for ANC care may be informed about risks and benefits associated with Covishield and Covaxin. Based on the information provided, a pregnant woman may be offered the choice to take any of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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An educational tool comprising information on risk of COVID-19 infection during pregnancy, benefits associated with the vaccination and rare complications associated with vaccines like thrombosis and thrombocytopenia (with Covishield) may be developed.

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Also, all lactating women are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines any time after delivery, the panel suggested.

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According to the current vaccination protocol, pregnant and lactating women should not be administered the shots as they have not been part of any anti-coronavirus vaccine clinical trial so far.

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In case of individuals who have received the first dose and before completion of the dosing schedule if they test positive for COVID-19, they should wait for 4-8 weeks after clinical recovery from the illness.

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Also, COVID-19 patients who have been given anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma may defer COVID-19 vaccination for three months from the day of discharge from hospital, the recommendations stated.

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Individuals having any other serious illness requiring hospitalisation or ICU care should also wait for 4-8 weeks before getting the next COVID vaccine, it added.

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